Photo: E.T. Jones/Vireo

Brown Creeper

Certhia americana

Looking like a piece of bark come to life, the Brown Creeper crawls up trunks of trees, ferreting out insect eggs and other morsels missed by more active birds. It is easily overlooked until its thin, reedy call gives it away. Reaching the top of one tree, it flutters down to the base of another to begin spiraling up again. Creepers even place their nests against tree trunks, tucked under loose slabs of bark, where they are very difficult to find.
Conservation status Declined as a breeding bird in much of eastern United States with cutting of forests; nests mainly in mature forest, not young second growth. Still common locally in north and west.
Family Creepers
Habitat Woodlands, groves, shade trees. Breeds in mature forest, either coniferous or deciduous, with many large trees, ranging from mountain pine woods to lowland swamp forest. In migration, may be found in any habitat with at least a few good-sized trees, even suburbs or city parks.
Looking like a piece of bark come to life, the Brown Creeper crawls up trunks of trees, ferreting out insect eggs and other morsels missed by more active birds. It is easily overlooked until its thin, reedy call gives it away. Reaching the top of one tree, it flutters down to the base of another to begin spiraling up again. Creepers even place their nests against tree trunks, tucked under loose slabs of bark, where they are very difficult to find.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Does almost all foraging on trunk and limbs of trees, climbing slowly with tail braced against surface, examining bark visually and probing in crevices. Occasionally forages on ground or snow.


Eggs

5-6, sometimes 4-8. Whitish, dotted with reddish brown. Incubation is by female, about 14-17 days. Male may feed female during incubation. Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest about 13-16 days after hatching.


Young

Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest about 13-16 days after hatching.

Diet

Mostly insects. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, especially insect eggs and pupae hidden in bark; also weevils and other beetles, true bugs, leafhoppers, scale insects, aphids, caterpillars, ants, and many others. Also feeds on spiders and pseudoscorpions. Eats some seeds, and will feed on suet or peanut-butter mixtures.


Nesting

Male defends nesting territory by singing. In courtship, male may perform rapid twisting flight among trees; may pursue female in the air and around tree trunks. Nest: Usual nest site is behind a large strip of bark still attached to a tree; occasionally in cavity in tree. May be at any height from very low to 50' or more above ground. In typical sites, nest is a shallow half-cup, closely fitting the available space behind the bark slab. Nest (built by female, with male bringing some material) is made of twigs, bark strips, moss, leaves, lined with finer materials.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

May migrate in small flocks. In many areas, migration peaks in April and in late September to early October.

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Migration

May migrate in small flocks. In many areas, migration peaks in April and in late September to early October.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A high-pitched, lisping tsee; song a tinkling, descending warble.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Creepers Tree-clinging Birds

Brown Creeper

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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